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The Nun study

spandit

Registered User
Feb 11, 2020
185
0
Not sure if this has been posted before but I was listening to a science podcast (Infinite Monkey Cage) the other day and they were talking about the brain. One of the panellists mentioned that there was a group a nuns who donated their brains to medical research and it transpired that many of them had indicators of Alzheimers despite showing no symptoms. It was posited that by keeping positive and busy, the brain compensated for the damaged areas.

 

canary

Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
14,667
0
South coast
Hello @spandit , yes Ive come across this study before. There are several possible explanations about this phenomenon. One is that damage to the brain simply does not correspond to level of impact on day to day living. We have come across this before on here - that there can be lots of damage showing on an MRI, yet very little in the way of symptoms, or conversely that there are lots of symptoms and very little showing on the MRI.

Another factor may be the environment. Nuns live in a community where there are always other people around, there is a simple routine that does not vary and the day consists of simple tasks and set communal prayers and songs/chants that will have been used for decades. All of this utilises the areas of the brain which are least affected and causes least anxiety.

I do feel that the "spin" that it is because the nuns were keeping their brains occupied is a very contemporary view, which fits in with the current idea that it is under our own control and we can do things to stave off dementia. I am really not sure how true this is.
 

Weasell

Registered User
Oct 21, 2019
1,102
0
Hello @spandit , yes Ive come across this study before. There are several possible explanations about this phenomenon. One is that damage to the brain simply does not correspond to level of impact on day to day living. We have come across this before on here - that there can be lots of damage showing on an MRI, yet very little in the way of symptoms, or conversely that there are lots of symptoms and very little showing on the MRI.

Another factor may be the environment. Nuns live in a community where there are always other people around, there is a simple routine that does not vary and the day consists of simple tasks and set communal prayers and songs/chants that will have been used for decades. All of this utilises the areas of the brain which are least affected and causes least anxiety.

I do feel that the "spin" that it is because the nuns were keeping their brains occupied is a very contemporary view, which fits in with the current idea that it is under our own control and we can do things to stave off dementia. I am really not sure how true this is.
Add to that:
Nuns eat nutritious home cooked food, with non of the additives many people consume.
The good diet could lead to less dental work and less amalgam fillings ( not sure about this one at all but chucked it in anyway)

Nuns drink tea not wine.

Nuns are not allowed to ‘ chatter’ only discuss the job in hand. Does this stop them saying ‘ is It you speaking to me or your doppelgänger’? So in other words they suffer, but they do not communicate to others?

Families often notice people with dementia think far more about themselves, they would be not allowed to disclose these emotions in that environment .

Nuns do not become obese, leading to some vascular problems.

I would imagine that nuns take far less prescription medication than the rest of society.

Nuns spend many hours on prayer and contemplation does this exercise and utilise areas of the brain that others never use, and that the brain can utilise when other areas become diseased. ( wild guess there)
and to echo @canary about the set routines ‘ Do nuns not suffer because of their habits ‘ !
( sorry could not resist that one)
 
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Sarasa

Volunteer Host
Apr 13, 2018
2,554
0
The Nun's study was mentioned in that programme Angela Rippon did on aging a few years ago. The thing that stayed with me was the nuns that were better educated were the ones who showed the least symptoms of dementia, even if post-mortems showed some evidence. Making sure you make the most of your brain at an early age seems to, perhaps, help a little.
Not all nuns are quite like @Weasell portrays them. All the ones I met have been very strong assertive women. I wonder if that makes any difference too.
 

Lawson58

Registered User
Aug 1, 2014
2,284
0
Victoria, Australia
Add to that:
Nuns eat nutritious home cooked food, with non of the additives many people consume.
The good diet could lead to less dental work and less amalgam fillings ( not sure about this one at all but chucked it in anyway)

Nuns drink tea not wine.

Nuns are not allowed to ‘ chatter’ only discuss the job in hand. Does this stop them saying ‘ is It you speaking to me or your doppelgänger’? So in other words they suffer, but they do not communicate to others?

Families often notice people with dementia think far more about themselves, they would be not allowed to disclose these emotions in that environment .

Nuns do not become obese, leading to some vascular problems.

I would imagine that nuns take far less prescription medication than the rest of society.

Nuns spend many hours on prayer and contemplation does this exercise and utilise areas of the brain that others never use, and that the brain can utilise when other areas become diseased. ( wild guess there)
and to echo @canary about the set routines ‘ Do nuns not suffer because of their habits ‘ !
( sorry could not resist that one)
Not sure that I would agree that nuns don't become obese.

And many years ago I was in residence completing a post graduate course and met a woman who was the life of the party. It took me three days to work out that she was a nun (civvies) and she joined us for a drink in the bar every night.

Re your last bit about the habits, I have a friend who says that nuns survive AD better because they don't have men around to annoy them!!!!!!!

However, I often wonder how does anyone really know if nuns exhibited certain AD behaviour? I can't imagine that a closed community would have allowed researchers to observe so did they rely on anecdotal evidence?

I haven't tried to track down the actual study so would love to know. I also think that with the considerable changes in religious communities over the last few decades perhaps those results might be quite different if done now.
 
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Weasell

Registered User
Oct 21, 2019
1,102
0
The Nun's study was mentioned in that programme Angela Rippon did on aging a few years ago. The thing that stayed with me was the nuns that were better educated were the ones who showed the least symptoms of dementia, even if post-mortems showed some evidence. Making sure you make the most of your brain at an early age seems to, perhaps, help a little.
Not all nuns are quite like @Weasell portrays them. All the ones I met have been very strong assertive women. I wonder if that makes any difference too.
I obviously need to get ‘ with it’ in my stereotyping nuns!
I was going to say I had obviously only been educated about one ‘coven’ then realised that is not the correct term at all, I wonder what the right term is?
My ignorance when it comes to nuns seems to be comprehensive !
 

jennifer1967

Registered User
Mar 15, 2020
2,367
0
Southampton
a group of nuns are called informally a gaggle. it depends on what Order the nuns are from, as some are from closed communities whilst others go out into the community and are teachers and nurses. some speak and some are silent. it just depends on which Order they enter. so a study of nuns could be quite diverse depending on what they do and how much they integrate with the community.
 

jennifer1967

Registered User
Mar 15, 2020
2,367
0
Southampton
I bet you are correct !

I love @jennifer1967 ’s ‘ gaggle’ word, I now have an image of a procession of Jemima puddle ducks all dressed as nuns !
apparently as i looked it up it is informally. its the name for a group of women as well. the formal name is superfluity of nuns. i need to get a life and find something to do. google has something to answer for. i actually collect beatrix potter and jemima puddleduck is my favourite but youve ruined the image now, i wont be able to look at it without the vision of nuns.
 

Weasell

Registered User
Oct 21, 2019
1,102
0
apparently as i looked it up it is informally. its the name for a group of women as well. the formal name is superfluity of nuns. i need to get a life and find something to do. google has something to answer for. i actually collect beatrix potter and jemima puddleduck is my favourite but youve ruined the image now, i wont be able to look at it without the vision of nuns.
🤣
 

Jaded'n'faded

Registered User
Jan 23, 2019
1,249
0
High Peak
Not sure if this has been posted before but I was listening to a science podcast (Infinite Monkey Cage) the other day and they were talking about the brain. One of the panellists mentioned that there was a group a nuns who donated their brains to medical research and it transpired that many of them had indicators of Alzheimers despite showing no symptoms. It was posited that by keeping positive and busy, the brain compensated for the damaged areas.

Just to ask, @spandit , is the Monkey Cage back? I've listened to all the old episodes after finding it accidentally. Currently binging on ER which is brilliant though less informative...!
 

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